Dry winter air will fuel COVID-19's spread, health experts say

Studies show that dry air encourages the spread of COVID-19, and health experts are sounding the alarm as temperatures start to cool, STAT reported. 

As temperatures drop, so does the humidity, leading to both drier air and respiratory tracts. Dry airways can hinder mucus' ability to remove debris and virus invaders, causing COVID-19 to spread more easily, experts said. These are the same reasons people are also more prone to colds and flu in the fall and winter. 

Infections increase when the relative humidity drops from the typical range of 40 percent and 60 percent in warmer temperatures to 20 percent in cooler temperatures, according to research on past virus outbreaks cited by STAT. The colder weather will also lead to more indoor gatherings, where social distancing is less effective, health experts said.

Some scientists are now calling for the World Health Organization to provide public places like schools and nursing homes with guidelines to maintain relative humidity at 40 percent to 60 percent, which is "the optimal humidity for health and respiratory infection prevention," Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, an immunologist at New Haven, Conn.-based Yale School of Medicine, told STAT.

Dr. Iwasaki is among those calling for health officials to add humidity guidelines to indoor-air standards via an online petition

More articles on public health:

5,300 physicians, scientists: Herd immunity as virus management is a 'dangerous fallacy'
Cases rise in nearly every US region; death rate falling for hospitalized COVID-19 patients — 6 updates
COVID-19 hospitalizations by state: Oct. 21


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